Challenge to new Tennessee law undermining voter registration

By agency reporter
May 10, 2019

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Tennessee, Campaign Legal Centre, and Fair Elections Centre filed a federal lawsuit on 9 May 2019, challenging a new Tennessee law that imposes substantial penalties on groups that foster political participation via voter registration efforts. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Tennessee, American Muslim Advisory Council, Mid-South Peace and Justice Centre, Rock the Vote, and Spread the Vote.

Tennessee ranks 44th in voter registration, but during the 2018 midterm election the state saw a surge in registrations. Instead of providing greater resources to help election offices process the influx, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a measure that creates criminal and civil penalties against those who fail to comply with onerous requirements and turn in “incomplete” applications. The governor signed the bill into law last week.

The complaint charges the new law violates freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, and the fundamental right to vote under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Along with the lawsuit, the groups filed a notice letter to the state citing violations of the National Voter Registration Act.

Hedy Weinberg, executive director, ACLU of Tennessee, said“The right to vote is the bedrock of our democracy and voter registration drives are a precursor for many to exercise that right. Voter registration drives have long been a way for communities that are historically disenfranchised — including students, people of color, immigrants, and senior citizens — to empower individuals and gain access to the ballot box. The ACLU filed this lawsuit because we are committed to ensuring political participation for all eligible voters.”

* Read the legal complaint here and the notice letter here

* American Civil Liberties Union https://www.aclu.org/

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